Update: 30 January 2015: Minsk talks cancelled as fighting in Ukraine intensifies
Volume I, No. 1 @eurasiaanalyst 29 January 2015
Mediation on their mind?
By Susan J. Cavan
Russian officials have made apparent their vision of a road map for peace. The trajectory of the Russian map clearly is not acceptable to Ukraine or interested western parties, but it does represent a starting point, as well as a further insight into Russian aims. At the very least, the articulation of Russian thinking allows Ukrainian, European, and NATO leaders to counter with their vision for an acceptable resolution.
Russia Today noted remarks by Sergei Ivanov at Auschwitz earlier this week, where he led the Russian delegation for the 70th anniversary memorial of the Holocaust: “Russia is interested in Ukraine being a friendly, independent state that is capable of providing for itself.” RT noted that Ivanov “added that peace could be achieved through immediate ending of artillery raids and direct talks between Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics in Donbass. … [and] reminded reporters that Vladimir Putin’s letter with a suggestion to withdraw heavy weapons from the war zone had remained unanswered….” (1)
Ivanov’s remarks echoed those of President Putin according to a published portion of the Russian Security Council meeting on January 23, when Putin described his unanswered initiative: “I sent a letter to the President of Ukraine, a written proposal to withdraw heavy weapons – artillery and multiple rocket launchers – to such a distance from which it would be impossible to fire at populated areas. I would like to inform you further that this proposal almost completely coincided with the requirements of the official Kiev. You know that there may be one disputed area along the line of separation between the parties to the conflict. So we suggested that weapons and heavy equipment should be withdrawn to the line that Kiev authorities themselves consider fair and corresponding to the agreements reached in Minsk on September 19, 2014.” (2)
This Security Council meeting, like the assembly held one week earlier, brought together the permanent members of the Council, namely the prime minister, heads of the Duma and Federal Assembly, chiefs of the power organs, Security Council Secretary and Deputy, as well as Boris Gryzlov. The Council, when it meets in this format appears to convene Putin’s foreign policy and national security policy decision makers. (3)
Sergei Ivanov broadened his comments to include a swipe at American influence in the Ukraine conflict, in a likely effort to influence a decision on further E.U. sanctions: “Americans are not suffering in this situation. The volume of Russian-American trade is close to zero or the margin of error, whereas the amount of trade between the Russian Federation and the EU is very serious.” (4)
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced sanctions as a means of pressuring Russia and declared: “We’ll continue in the future to exert strenuous efforts for creating a favourable environment for the settlement of major problems the Ukrainian nation is facing.” (5) He noted some of the ways Russia was currently “supporting” Ukraine: “This involves the supply of gas at preferential prices, the supply of electricity at Russian domestic prices, and the supply of coal without a pre-payment.” (6)
Lavrov also has presented further details of Russia’s preferences in negotiations over the conflict in Ukraine: “We are in favour of having the joint coordination and oversight centre that was formed following the suggestion of the Ukrainian side, together with the OSCE observers, monitor the ongoing situation, including the ceasefire. We also wish to identify the violators of the “silent mode.” Such is our goal, and I think that it will help calm the situation. In addition to the ceasefire-related issues, it is imperative to agree on the economic revival of Donbas, as well as the resumption of normal life in these territories, establishing economic ties between the proclaimed republics and the rest of Ukraine, and, of course, facilitating the political process.” (7)
Lest there be any doubt that Russia has placed all of its eggs in the mediation basket, there is a “stick” as well. Political analyst and presidential council member Sergei Markov describes a scenario for a potential outcome in Ukraine should the west not heed its current signals: “Once the so-called Novorossia liberates Mariupol, reaction of the West will be stiff and particularly stiff when Slavyank is liberated. When Odessa and Kharkov are overrun, the warring sides will conduct talks where Russian interests will be taken into account at long last. Sanctions will be lifted. The regime currently calling the tune in Kiev will fall. Ukraine will become a federation – in return for Moscow’s promise not to attack Kiev. The impression is that Markov is not the only one to expect this sequence of events.” (8)
It seems the moment has arrived for the United States and European states, along, of course, with Ukraine’s own leadership, to decide and articulate what constitutes a positive and defensible result from negotiations. Western leaders can and should draw their own conclusions and countervailing maps to represent a successful resolution to the crisis in Ukraine. At least Putin’s Russia, for all its Cold War propaganda and obfuscation about its military involvement in Ukraine, has been very clear about its own aspirations for a successfully mediated outcome.
By Susan J. Cavan
1) “Top Kremlin official states deeper crisis in Ukraine is against Russian interests,” Russia Today, 28 January 2015, 10:33, via http://rt.com/politics/226967-ivanov-russia-ukraine-crisis/#.VMlZNMBnxa8.twitter.
2) “Putin says “criminal orders” to blame for Ukraine civilian deaths – Kremlin text,” President of the Russian Federation website, Moscow, in English, 14:30, 23 January 2015, via http://eng.kremlin.ru/transcripts/23512
3) “The Bases of Russian Foreign Policy, Part 2: Who?,” Susan J. Cavan, Eurasia Analyst, Volume I, Number 4, 15 November 2012, via http://eurasiaanalyst.org/eurasia-analyst/archives/volume-i-number-4-15-november-12/.
4) “U.S. use Ukraine conflict to put EU and Russia at loggerheads – Kremlin Official,” Interfax.ru, 29 January 2015; Russia & CIS Military Newswire, via LexisNexis Academic.
5) “Pressure of unilateral sanctions not to make Moscow give up what it considers right – Lavrov,” ITAR-TASS, 28 January 2015, 12:37PM GMT+4, via LEXISNexis Academic.
6) “Russia is not demanding repayment of debt from Ukraine, although payment is due – Lavrov,” Interfax, 26 January 2015; Russia & CIS Diplomatic Panorama, 26 January 2015, via LexisNexis Academic.
7) Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s introductory remarks and responses to questions during a joint news conference Moscow, 16 January 2015 48-16-01-2015, Text of report in English by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on 17 January; BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 18 January 2015, via LexisNexis Academic.
8) Editorial by Nikolay Epple and Boris Grozovskiy: “After Mariupol” in Vedomosti, 26 January 2015; BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union – Political, 28 January 2015, via LexisNexis Academic.
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